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Meet Alon Shalev, the new Executive Director of the American Friends of Hand in Hand

Lee Gordon co-founded Hand in Hand in 1997, and soon after created the American Friends of Hand in Hand network. Based in Portland, OR, American Friends of Hand in Hand has become a community of almost 10,000 friends and supporters aligned with Hand in Hand’s mission. Now, after 25 years, Lee will continue to serve a leading role as Co-Founder of Hand in Hand while passing the Executive Director role to the newest member of our team, Alon Shalev. 

About American Friends of Hand in Hand (AFHIH)

Lee Gordon was one of two founders of Hand in Hand in 1997. Hand in Hand is the “love of his life,” and Lee remained deeply committed to the organization even after moving from Israel to Portland two years later. In 1999, Lee created the American Friends of Hand in Hand, a non-profit organization, as a vital base of support enabling Hand in Hand schools and communities to grow year-after-year into a transformational anchor for shared society across Israel. 

Meet Alon Shalev

For the past 10 years, Alon Shalev served as Executive Director of the Western Region of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS), a nonprofit international development and human rights organization. Born in the UK and currently living in California, Alon lived in Israel for 20 years and was a founding member of Kibbutz Lotan. “My job has always been to raise money and raise consciousness for different issues, so I’m excited to bring those tools here,” Alon says. “Hand in Hand wants to grow the number of schools, and I’m going to help build the infrastructure to support that.”

Alon had no plans to leave AJWS, however the events of October 7th changed everything. “I had that very visceral feeling that I should just get on a plane and come home,” he says. “I wanted to help and build the next generation committed to civil society and shared society, and that feeling stayed with me. Now, I’m thinking about what will happen the day after, and how we build a society within Israel and with our neighbors so we can all live in peace.”

Alon has followed the work of Hand in Hand for many years, and is “excited to meet our supporters and hear why they’re prioritizing Hand in Hand and shared society in Israel.” He is also keen to harness much more public interest in our work: “stories are powerful and I look forward to weaving the stories of students, teachers, and supporters into what is already a powerful vehicle of change.”

More than anything, Alon believes that change comes through youth. “It feels like a very natural step for me to move into an organization whose entire focus is on youth, and support a framework where people grow up hand in hand with each other,” he says.

Alon will begin work by visiting Hand in Hand’s schools and parent communities in Israel in February 2024. “I’m looking forward to experiencing the schools and culture for myself, and sharing these experiences and my belief in this work with people across America.”

Lee Gordon’s Legacy

Back in 1997, in what was the inaugural Jewish-Arab Hand in Hand partnership, Lee worked with Amin Khalaf to bring the dream of an integrated school network to life. When circumstances brought Lee to Portland two years later, he launched the AFHIH office to continue enabling Hand in Hand’s growth. He built an American fundraising team and system to work closely with our Israel-based team and the AFHIH Board of Directors, and has been a steadfast pillar of support for Hand in Hand through a quarter century of growth.

Lee’s warm, relationship-first approach has created an incredible roster of friends and donors at a wide range of levels. Under his leadership, AFHIH has enabled many thousands of people around the world to feel connected to Hand in Hand. This connection offers hope and an avenue to contribute to positive change in Israel, especially now. “Many people have said we are a beacon of light during these dark times,” Lee says. 

Since its inception, Hand in Hand has continued operations through multiple cycles of war and conflict, including the Israel-Hamas war today. “This kind of strife is not new to us, however if Hand in Hand had been established this year, I don’t think it would have survived,” Lee says. “But we now have a foundation of 25 years of trust and mutual respect, and we know how to work together and build partnerships that will survive this, and maybe even be strengthened by it.”

Lee made Hand in Hand his life’s mission, and has played an incomparable role in supporting the organization through decades of challenges and opportunities. We are thankful that Lee will remain deeply involved in Hand in Hand.

Now with Alon Shalev joining the team, AFHIH will go from strength to strength to support Hand in Hand’s strategic growth at this critical moment in Israeli society.

With thanks to our new and longtime partners, who contribute to an inclusive, just, and shared future in Israel. Together, Alon, Lee, and our colleagues in America and Israel look forward to continuing to nurture this precious community as we work together towards a more peaceful future.

During these challenging times, Hand in Hand’s work is more important than ever. Kindly consider making a contribution here.


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